UK Catholic weekly critiques ‘Inciviltà cattolica’ v. Americans

spadaro stairsAt the UK’s best Catholic weekly, there are not one but two … two critiques of Jesuit Fr. Antonio “2+2=5” Spadaro’s attack on Americans in Inciviltà cattolica.

They are useful because they are not in an American source.

Antonio Spadaro has discovered a brand of Protestantism he doesn’t like by Stephen White


Sadly, that seems to be the recipe for most of the piece: present a parade of horribles in a way that suggests to the reader that they’re related even if they’re not, drop in a gratuitous jab at George W. Bush for zest, sprinkle Donald Trump’s name generously, add one dash of Steve Bannon, and then contrast the whole thing to Pope Francis and voilà!

Why is Civiltà Cattolica attacking American Christians? I have a theory by Tim Stanley


The Jesuit magazine La Civiltà Cattolica has just published an essay on US religious politics that beggars belief. I cannot comment on the theology, but I know my American history – and this article is full of so many errors that it’s impossible to keep silent about it. It matters because one of the authors, Fr Antonio Spadaro SJ, the magazine’s editor, is said to be a confidant of the Pope. [Spadaro is also so interested in the life and works of Pier Vittorio Tondelli that he created his own website about him (HERE).]


My biggest gripe with the article is its lack of clarity. It makes sweeping generalisations that are untrue. Not all evangelicals are fundamentalists, for instance, and not all evangelical fundamentalists are Right-wing activists.


The essay makes a number of statements about American Protestantism that are inaccurate.


The essay betrays a European’s take on America, forcing the template by which we might read European history on to the United States. It doesn’t fit. For instance, far from being a 99 per cent white movement, as the essay suggests, some of the most outspoken religious conservatives in America are black. Fundamentalists in the Twenties often denounced Darwinism because they linked it to eugenics. Until the Seventies, fundamentalists withdrew entirely from politics on the grounds that saving souls was all that mattered; many opposed prayer in schools. And yet, in a fine example of reductio ad absurdum, this essay goes so far as to equate George W Bush with Osama bin Laden, because both were influenced by philosophies that divide the world between good and evil:

“At heart, the narrative of terror shapes the world-views of jihadists and the new crusaders and is imbibed from wells that are not too far apart. We must not forget that the theopolitics spread by Isis is based on the same cult of an apocalypse that needs to be brought about as soon as possible. So, it is not just accidental that George W Bush was seen as a ‘great crusader’ by Osama bin Laden.”

This is offensive. I suspect I know what’s behind it. If the essayists are allowed to engage in corny psychoanalysis, then permit me to do the same. Many Europeans and Latin Americans, ashamed of their countries’ dalliance with fascism, often try to implicate America in the same historical forces. But it’s more a more complex job than they think. There is such a thing as American fascism: slavery and segregation are its most obvious outward signs, and Catholics engaged in both alongside Protestants. But in the Thirties, democracy held out in the US in the way that it didn’t in Europe. And part of the reason for that was a history of resistance to state power and corporatism that is part of the DNA of America’s vibrant, violent, sometimes quite insane religious culture. American history is complicated. It defies lazy caricatures.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. PostCatholic says:

    A major reason why I follow this blog because I find it to be one of the few places on the web in the nexus of religion and right wing politics that isn’t reflexively anti-intellectual. It gives me insight into conservative philosophy from people who actually study their ideologies and can mount a cohesive apology (in the rhetorical sense of that word) for their viewpoint.

    Some of Mr White’s assertion can be dismissed as argumentative misdirect. Certainly some of Protestant America’s “most outspoken religious conservatives are black,” but that is a bit of a red herring: the black churches in America tend to be aligned with liberals; the adherents and institutions of Protestant religion conservatism overwhelmingly are white; the most powerful and best-funded of those institutions are also active in right-wing politics. Surely we agree on that?

    I also wonder if readers here can (they can; I should say I hope they humor me and will) exemplify Spadaro’s European bias that Mr White complains of with more contemporary examples than the 1920s-1970s?

    I think, as I said earlier, there’s a nexus of conservative religion and conservative politics that in America overlap more significantly in than they do not. That does bear comparison to other systems of theological and political thought which influence each other so neatly.

  2. lmgilbert says:

    More Pushback against Spadora’s “Ecumenism of Hate” Article:

    Maureen Mullarkey
    In God They Don’t Trust: Anti-American Syllabus in Vatican journal
    https:/ /’t-trust-anti-american.html#more

    Fr. Dwight Longnecker
    Spadaro, Straw Men and Scapegoats

    Father Raymond J. de Souza
    Article by pope’s confidantes adds little to understanding Trump’s America

    John Zmirak
    Leading Jesuit Condemns Pro-Life Movement, Trump Voters and Conservatives

    Robert Royal
    Are Americans from Mars?

    Mark Silk
    Catholicism’s Two-Party System

    This list is in addition to seven articles listed in the comment section of Fr. Z’s post:
    Jesuit Fr. Spadaro’s ‘Apologia pro nugis suis’
    Posted on 15 July 2017 by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

  3. Benedict Joseph says:

    “Many Europeans and Latin Americans, ashamed of their countries’ dalliance with fascism, often try to implicate America in the same historical forces.”
    Insightful indeed.
    Something of a similar dynamic appears to be fueling the ever increasing self-loathing we are witnessing in the episcopate, the clergy and religious, the laity – what is left of same.
    Roman Catholicism marginalized by the European intelligentsia for three hundred years, and in America identified by predominant Protestant culture with backward, ruthless regimes in Europe and Latin America, appears to be in a desperate struggle to gain credence with the prevailing culture – initially Protestant, now neo-pagan – by acquiescing to the wildly speculative while abandoning the Truth resident in the perennial Magisterium of the Church.
    Roman Catholicism was dragged under in the post-war period, traumatized by the brutalities of not one but two unspeakably destructive wars – let alone by the violence which had preceded them for centuries.
    The American Church, in the ascendency during the 1940-50’s, had something to offer post-war Europe, but was seduced by the apparent ceasefire signaled with the 1960 presidential election. That only masked the protestant contempt for the Church long enough for Catholics to drop their defense against the cultural menace inherent in American Protestantism, rapidly metamorphosing into secularism.
    Then there was the Council, which was the fruit of what remained of a still traumatized Catholic Europe. The American Church without awareness of its own predicament and the parallel deconstruction of European Catholicism began their decent holding hands.
    Self-contempt ignites self-destructive behavior, ultimately resulting in self-elimination. We are witnessing a protracted suicide self-deceptively characterized as an expression of institutional humility.
    The good news is that it is within our power to cooperate with Grace in reversing this trajectory. The bad news is that there appears little awareness or impulse in any facet of the episcopate to view the reality which subsumes us. The fraudulence possessing us is regarded as virtue – as wisdom.
    Nature abhors a vacuum. What is emerging from Northern Africa cannot help but find fertile ground.

  4. Rich says:

    “All three – disinformation, defamation and slander – are sins! This is sin! It is to slap Jesus in the person of his children, his brothers.” – Pope Francis, Homily, May 18, 2013

  5. Pingback: TVESDAY CATHOLICA EDITION | Big Pulpit

  6. Fallibilissimo says:

    It’s good such measured and well thought out scrutiny is being placed on “conservative Catholics” because they’re obviously the BIG PROBLEM in the Church. Yup… Wasn’t there an apparition that singled out conservative Catholics of spreading their errors around the world?

    I think I saw one of those “hateful conservative Catholic” the other day in the street. I did what my training taught me and pulled out my garlic and crucifix (no offense to all my fellow COEXIST allies, it’s just a symbol of a cultural event appropriated by my faith-tradition and it probably never happened anyway). He looked at me with his hate-filled eyes and asked me if I was ok. This is a typical ploy by these hate-mongers so they can suck you up in their cabal! I fled the scene before he could grab me with his claws (they have claws btw).
    Does anybody know a non-judgmental, inclusive of ALL, non-denominational, non-gender conforming spiritual counselor that can perform an anti-patriarchy exorcism on me so that I can be sure to be cleansed of all that conservative Catholic xenophobic hate?

  7. LarryW2LJ says:

    “…this essay goes so far as to equate George W Bush with Osama bin Laden, because both were influenced by philosophies that divide the world between good and evil”.

    Ummmm, pardon me if I’m wrong, but ISN’T the world divided between good and evil? Oooops, silly me …….. I forgot that the Jesuits deny the existence of the devil. Sorry, I’ll move on.

  8. Ocampa says:

    >>Ummmm, pardon me if I’m wrong, but ISN’T the world divided between good and evil?

    Nah, to Jesuits everything is just 50 shades of grey.

  9. JustaSinner says:

    Fr. Z., can the seat of Peter be moved? Does it HAVE to be in Rome?

  10. Julia_Augusta says:

    Criticizing America is what passes for “virtue signaling” in Europe.

  11. robtbrown says:


    Of course, there is also the link between liberal religion and liberal politics. Half wits like Ted Kennedy, and their supporters are easy examples.

    And I hope you realize that many politically and religiously conservative Catholics are grandchildren and children of Catholics who would never have considered voting Republican. The Catholic Church in America was attached at the hip to the Democratic party.

    But the Libs went whole hog for abortion and anything “gay”. Both were sold as Live and Let Live. What happened, however, was federal money funding abortions, then Obama trying to force believers in business to provide abortifacients. And of course, now there are prosecutions against wedding businesses who refuse to cater homosexual weddings

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